Minimal oversight within surgical centers places the health and safety of patients at considerable risk for serious injuries or death. In many states, the oversight is so minimal that surgical centers are not required to report when their patients die as the result of surgical procedures.
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Routine Doesn’t Mean Safe
All surgical procedures come with a certain amount of risk. Whether it’s a colonoscopy or a complicated heart surgery, physicians are required to apprise patients of the associated risks and take reasonable precautions to ensure patient safety and the prevention of “never events.” This includes proper management of the patient’s health, appropriate direction of the medical team engaged in the procedure, thorough implementation of sterilization and infection controls, and maintaining accurate records of the procedure and any associated impact to the patient’s health.
Decertification Doesn’t Always End the Cycle
If a physician or surgical center is decertified, that isn’t a guarantee for future patient safety. Loopholes in oversight and prohibitions mean that when a facility is closed the facility can no longer receive federal funds to care for patients, however, the physicians working within it can open up a new surgical center in another location. When this happens, problems in management and operations are often repeated in the new center until it is closed and the cycle continues. In some states, this can happen within a matter of days. Moreover, when a patient dies in a surgical center, it is not uncommon to find a pattern of similar incidents and lethal events that involve the same physicians, anesthesiologists, and nurses.
Lax Oversight = Little Information
Surgical centers operate under significantly looser regulations than hospitals. This means that they are not required to provide detailed or thorough information to Medicare and other state and federal agencies with oversight responsibilities. As a result, the information prospective patients can review prior to choosing to undergo a surgical procedure is limited, and the information they do find may be severely skewed.
Surgery Center Owners can be the Danger
Physicians can open their own surgical center. While regulations require surgical centers have a board to manage and oversee operations, the chair of that board is usually the physician. Essentially, the person in charge and responsible for patient care and safety is allowed to police his or her own actions. This is a dangerous and potentially lethal loophole that leads to the proliferation of hazardous conditions and dangerous operational patterns.